Sunday, 24 January 2016

The mystery of CIPS Life Honorary Membership

We have previously discussed CIPS' License, and even Chartered Status, but I only recently became aware of CIPS Life Honorary Membership. 

My awareness started when one of you shared with me their intention to leave CIPS but only decided to remain when they were offered free lifetime membership - I don't want to share the details of those particular circumstances, but my friend's understanding was that the offer was made due to the number of years they'd been a CIPS member. 

Now I've been a member since the 80s so I decided to enquire about eligibility.  

As many of you will know I have been a great supporter of transparency of the procurement process and have advocated stating award criteria beyond the requirements of the EU Regulations. It strikes me as just good practice. I would have thought CIPS would have advocated a similar approach to transparency. However, when I wrote to CIPS I received this reply:
Thank you for your email. I must advise that you are not eligible for life honorary membership. I cannot advise the criteria for this membership but I recommend you email again with your query in a few years.
Of course, that was like waving the proverbial 'red rag to a bull', so I challenged the 'secrecy' and it was reiterated: "As advised I am not able to discuss the criteria", and subsequently:
Life honorary membership is rewarded on a discretionary basis and is not automatically awarded. There is no fixed criteria and each case is reviewed individually.
I'm not sure if CIPS meant to say 'rewarded' but exasperated by CIPS lack of transparency I said I would use my blog and try to establish others awareness of the process. Here's what they said:
I am sorry that you feel disappointed with the information that you have been provided.  Reading through the previous emails it appears that you have been led to believe that Life Honorary Membership is something that our members are entitled to after a certain period of time.  All I can do is reiterate what my colleague has told you that this is not correct and that this is a discretionary award on a case by case basis. I appreciate that you wish to blog about this, however I must stress that we are the team who handle these enquiries and as such are the experts in this area, any information gathered from other sources cannot be treated as reliable.
Using the shield of "we are ...  the experts in this area" echoes the criticism levelled at the profession many years ago when buyers refused to demonstrate professionalism in contract awards which only led to cynicism and suspicion.  

Equally, while information gained from a blog may not be reliable, CIPS isn't prepared to provide any clarity at all.  Let's remember that CIPS membership fees must subsidise this cabal and its beneficiaries.

I don't know about you but that leads me to ask: who decides there is a case for Life Honorary Membership, who are the Life Honorary Members, and, given the lack of any fixed criteria, how can we have confidence in the process? A straw poll of members with over 25 years MCIPS/FCIPS membership indicates few are even aware of the category of membership!

So, if any of you can provide the clarity which CIPS can't/won't provide on the dark secrets of CIPS Life Honorary Membership, I'd love to hear? It would be better that we had the transparency of a professional organisation than the perception of application of the black arts. 

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